Sir Richard Branson has been dealt a blow after the competition watchdog blocked an alliance between his Virgin Blue brand and Air New Zealand.
Under the proposed deal, Virgin Blue and Air New Zealand would dovetail their respective prices, schedules and routes in order to bolster their positions in the competitive Australia to New Zealand route.
However, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said the move was “likely to reduce competition in the market for trans-Tasman air passenger services.”
The ACCC said that the tie-up could adversely affect around one million passengers who would use trans-Tasman services.
Virgin Blue is currently undergoing a brand and business overhaul as it attempts to improve its standing in South East Asia and take corporate market share from Qantas.
In happier news for Branson, the UK entrepreneur has successfully linked up with Unilever to invest in a start-up company that produces an alternative jet fuel.
Branson has invested his own money in bio-tech firm Solazyme, which has raised $US60 million in funding to develop oil-based offerings for use in biofuels, as well as foods and cosmetics.